Boot Camp Investigation (Press Release)

by Police Administration, Friday, January 11, 2013, 01:00 (2232 days ago)

ABILENE, TX – On January 4, 2013, Child Protective Services received a call from a child reporting she had been shocked numerous times by an electronic device. Also on this date, the Abilene Police Department received a request for an emergency check welfare call, in which officers were asked to check on a 14-year old child who had been “tased” repeatedly. At this point I need to make it clear that the use of Taser, or being tased, is an inappropriate use of the word, both by the media and the boot camp. Taser is a private company that provides a specific product. The device allegedly used by the suspects in this investigation is not a Taser, nor does it resemble a Taser. I will elaborate more in a few minutes.

The responding officer requested the assistance of the Special Victims Unit, and subsequently a joint investigation was initiated that involved Child Protective Services, the Abilene Police Department, and Child Care Licensing, which is part of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. As a result of this comprehensive investigation, we have identified five victims and three primary suspects. The investigation has revealed the following:

The involved boot camp is believed to have operated for the last (4) years. The information provided by this business indicates their program is 30-weeks long, and that they conduct their boot camp at a city park in the open park areas. In addition to an enrollment form, the business requires parents sign an authorization form to use force against their children, including tackling the child, using physical contact to take them to the ground, and/or using a “teaser” against the child. We have confirmed that this is a misspelled word, and the intent is possibly to reflect taser, which is an electronic control device manufactured by Taser International.

Investigators have determined that at least three suspects have used an electronic control device against at least five children. The device used is a ZAP brand Double Trouble 1.2 Million Volt Stun Gun, and it is sold commercially. Ads for this device state that it “packs some punch.” I find that statement incredibly accurate, as each end of the device delivers 600,000 volts. The device is in the form of a horseshoe, and it reportedly delivers two immobilizing “zaps” in a half second. The device description adds that this is for personal protection and effective against an attacker. Therein is our concern and the impetus for this criminal investigation.
Regarding the incidents with the 14-year old child, she reported she was shocked by the above- described device three times, once on the back of her leg, twice on her back, and twice on her buttocks. She was allegedly shocked once for dropping her legs while doing flutter kicks, and again while she was being forced to run during which time she was lapped. Apparently because she was lapped, she was shocked with the Double Trouble 1.2 Million Volt Stun Gun. A more recent incident occurred in which the suspects were asked to come to the children’s home because the children were not doing their chores. They allegedly went into the oldest child’s room and “tossed” her room, meaning they messed up the room intentionally, and then directed her to clean it up immediately. Believing she was not moving fast enough, they “tossed” the room again. The child became upset, at which point the suspects asked the mother for permission to shock the child. Permission was granted, so the child was reportedly warned again. After she allegedly balled up her fists, while surrounded by four grown men, she was forced to the ground, held and then shocked. This occurred twice. It should be noted both of her siblings were shocked during one of these home visits. When the parent was subsequently interviewed, she indicated her children were shocked because they were “acting up and not behaving.”

An unrelated incident involves a 12-year old child who was reportedly shocked because he was not moving fast enough when crawling on the ground as part of physical exercise. And lastly, we are investigating whether a 4-year old child was shocked on two different occasions because he was not obedient to his parent. That child was reportedly shocked in his home, at the invitation of his parent.

Because of the involvement of some parents, CPS and the Police Department have been careful as to how they interviewed the children. I acknowledge that we did conduct many interviews with children without their parents’ knowledge. This was intentional, in light of the potential complicity of some parents. We have learned in some cases parents have told their children not to cooperate with police. It is routine for CPS and APD to conduct interviews without parents present when a parent may be the subject of the investigation.

The Police Department has grave concerns about some of the force used by this boot camp. For comparison, an officer’s Taser uses 50,000 volts. The device used by this boot camp uses 1.2 million volts. We will present our investigations to the District Attorney’s Office for their review.

Moving forward, I want to acknowledge that all aspects of this boot camp are not detrimental. Many children and parents have reported positive experiences.

The Abilene Police Department remains committed to the safety of your children.

Thank you,

Chief Stan Standridge

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